Smooth…

Smarmy guy (to girl leaving party, blocking her way): Whoa-whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute! Surely you can’t be leaving so soon. We haven’t even been introduced!

Girl: Yes, we have. Your name is Jacob.

Smarmy guy: …Oh.

Dannebrogsgade, Copenhagen

Overheard by

/marie

October 29, 2006. Overheard. 2 comments.

Terkel in Trouble

Marie and I are nice girls. You know that. We have always done our homework, we speak almost like the Queen, we listen to opera, we are good to the animals and elderly citizens and we prefer eating ecological products.
But we also like to be out of character. And being out of character for the two of us has to include Terkel. Terkel is only 12, he’s ugly, his language is foul and he does not stand up for his friends. And yet – we love him.
This is Terkel:
Terkel
His film is called Terkel in Trouble, it’s for children and was one of the biggest commercial successes in Danish theatres in 2004.
A couple of weeks ago we realised that Terkel is out there. He actually roams large parts of Europe. The UK of course, but also Germany and Italy. Even Norway even though they tried to ban him because of his language (oh these Norwegians – when are they going to relax?).
I am especially glad to present you with the Italian trailer.
Terrrrkel! Aren’t those r’s marvellous? Terrrrrrrrkel! I love it. And I love that Eros Ramazotti quality this song gets when sung in Italian. Well, perhaps not the lyrics:
Fanculo a te, sei troppo un cesso e tua mamma gonfia banane giganti a mazzi da sei.
I will not translate that since I am a nice girl. I will only say that it involves someone’s mother and some giant bananas. In bunches of six, even.

It comes in German too.

In Germany they have copied the Danish version to perfection since one person makes all the voices. In the Danish version it was Anders Matthesen (who is also the man behind the story) who is a stand-up comedian and a genius. He made a lot of radio for children and many of the characters in Terkel in Trouble are from those radio programmes.

There are some hilarious songs in Terkel in Trouble and then there is one with a more sombre tone. Unfortunately I cannot find it in English. So you’ll have to watch the Norwegian version.
I’ve translated the lyrics for you:

This is the story of the boy named Quang
He’s 7, lives in Thailand and his working day is long
He gets up early and goes to bed real late
Quang has a lot to do even though he’s just a boy

Each morning a quarter to five Quang walks down alone
through hawthorns and thistles, to a boat by the river shore
The water is cold and dark but the family has debts
so he dives for pearls, mostly without any luck.

So what the fuck makes you think
I will listen to your complaints
that you don’t like your spinach and your allowance is too small
You have your fast food and your nintendo, you have time for play and fun
and there are thousands of children
who wish they were in your shoes.

Quang is the eldest out of ten
so he’s the one to cook dinner when the day is over
There are mouths enough to feed
and that is often hard
So Quang has bought a tube of glue
they will sniff for dessert.

When Quang has put the small ones to bed
he is really tired himself
But he must into to town again
even though it’s night
He has a date that he planned yesterday
with his boyfriend, Heinrich Schulze, who is 45 years old.

So how can you tell me
that your life sucks
Please see it all in a larger perspective
Think about others than yourself
Learn from my song
Remember you’re all right
if your life is not like Quang’s.

Right. And you know what? The hippie guy with the guitar, Gunnar (or Justin), has the voice of Toby Stephens in the English version! Now that is what I call out of character, and it means I will have to buy the English version when it comes in dvd. Just to hear Quang’s song! Toby Stephens is my latest crush (cf.) and him being part of Terkel in Trouble does not curb my crush the least. On the contrary! Now, just a reminder…
Toby/Justin

And now for those patient ones of you who aren’t Norwegian, Italian or German: The English trailer.

Terrrrkel!
Forside
/anna

October 25, 2006. Fandom, Films, Music. 3 comments.

Don Giorgio

A very dear friend promised to send me a piece of man by post since Denmark has been emptied of what Marie and I call manly men. Or at least we cannot find them – are they hibernating already in October?
Well, I requested a real man and my friend sent me this:
Georg Gänswein
His name is Georg Gänswein (not kidding) and my friend and large parts of the Italian population seems to think he is HOT. That’s why they call him Don Giorgio. Look he’s sporty too:
Gänswein tennis

Now you might say that he’s a bit on the elderly side for a girl of 27…but that is the least of my problems with Giorgio. You see he’s already intimate with some one else:
Pope and Gänswein

So I’ll just continue looking…
Thank you pal! *slightly bitter*
/anna

October 25, 2006. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Nick McDonell: The Third Brother

As revealed in my short bio in “About the Confidential Attachées” (see the column to the right), I review books on the University Radio whenever I’m not busy studying for my master’s degree, paying the rent by working at my tiresome telemarketing job, or winning body-tequila contests (yes, the latter actually happened to me this Saturday. No, really. I took the first prize in a body-tequila contest. A stranger licked salt off of my collar bone. It’s been a hard, hard weekend for me…). I figured I might as well post some of the reviews I do here on the blog as well. Of course I can only do so with a limited number of my reviews, seeing as a lot of the books I review are merely Danish editions and hold little relevance for our non-Danish readers. Also, I regret that I’m unable to quote directly from the books even when they are originally written in English: The editions I receive from the publishers are all Danish translations of the originals. Nevertheless, here’s a translated rewriting of one of my latest review, a review of Nick McDonell’s novel The Third Brother:

the third brother - nick mcdonell  

This year marked the five-year anniversary of the terror attack on World Trade Center that shook a whole world to its core, and the mourning of the human and cultural losses has already made its way into Western literature, as it has been seen with for instance Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, published last year. The terror attacks also play an important part in a new American novel. The Third Brother by Nick McDonell tells the story of a young New Yorker’s problems while coming of age in a terrorized world. Indeed Nick McDonell seems the right person to be speaking on behalf of young people. At only 22 he’s already the author of two novels; Twelve from 2002, and now The Third Brother, and he has already been announced one of the great talents of his generation. 

In the novel we meet young college-student, Mike, who returns to NYC from an internship in Hong Kong in September 2001  to take care of his mentally unstable older brother as a tragedy strikes his family. However, as much as the story of the two young men, the novel tells the story of their parents. One of the main premises of the novel is that the decadent world where narcotics thrive in the side alleys of Bangkok, where buildings collapse, and where young men suffer from psychoses, couldn’t have appeared out of thin air, and Mike struggles to gain knowledge of the background for all this; of his parents’ generation. For weren’t the brothers’ parents’ and their friends involved in some kind of secret affair? And isn’t Mike’s brother Lyle right when he claims that he and Mike has a third brother?

Mike believes all the answers to these questions to be obtainable in one person, his parents’ old friend with the significant name that creeks ominously in the hinges: Christopher Dorr. Mike knows that Dorr has settled down in Bangkok and he seeks him out during his internship, and in a superbly unsettling scene Mike learns from Dorr that an old friend of Dorr’s, without doubt Mike’s old father, impregnated Dorr’s sister and left her to die in childbirth. The stoned, worn-out middle-aged man tells Mike his disturbing tale while they both watch Dorr’s whining dog give birth to a number of scrawny puppies who suffocate and die on the floor of Dorr’s little hut. It’s a recurring theme in the book, this of the imcompetent parent, here in the shape of a scalded Labrador. The world that Mike’s parents are leaving their sons is a corrupted one, filthy like the floor on which the bitch delivers her perishing puppies, and Mike is unable to escape from the corruption, even when he travels across the world.

Mike’s final breakdown as a result of all this is marked disturbingly by Mike’s homecoming to New York. It’s not the family tragedy that has called him home that the persona deals with in the novel; it’s the national tragedy, the attacks on World Trade Center, and they hold a disturbing symbolic value for the young man. What he finds is that he cannot return to his home either; his entire foundation literally crumbles, before Mike has had the chance to find a new place for himself. It is the hopes of Mike’s childhood and his childish trust in his surroundings that he sees collapsing around him on September 11, and during the heartwrenching descriptions of Mike’s walk through the terrorized New York during that fateful Tuesday, he contemplates wrecked office chairs on the ground with the same mourning as he does the mangled corpses of victims, remembering how he and Lyle used to race carefree down the halls of their father’s office on chairs like that as children, all the while sympathising deeply with the ones who became the first to realize that they had no hope of rescue, and jumped. 

McDonell’s novel is divided into three parts, with the first part dealing with Mike’s stay in Bangkok, and the second revolving around the walk through the terrorized New York. And these two parts are really good. Their strength lies in Mike’s photographic, passive contemplation of his surroundings, his quiet resignation when confronted with the wrecked world in which he finds himself. His diction is admirably precise in these parts, and I really love the at the same time youthfully perceptive and maturely cynical narrative style that McDonell demonstrates in descriptions of dying puppies on floors in Bangkok, and his elegant snapshots of desperations in depictions of collages of heads and shoulders of bus passengers who flee from Ground Zero in collective death anxiety. Such a terrifyingly critical view of the world lies in these matter-of-fact, passive contemplations, that it’s really a shame that McDonell hasn’t chosen to let his novel end after these two first parts.

But he hasn’t, and in the third part we are dragged through the main characters clichéd and bland mourning after the aforementioned family tragedy. The fresh resources of the cynical narrative style of the first two parts are completely lost when McDonell suddenly attempts to make his protagonist sincerely suffering and vulnerable, and as a result the third part is full of worn-out phrases such as “What am I to do with the truth?” and “I don’t know what is wrong with me”, where McDonell’s youthfulness borders on the embarrassing triteness of a teenager’s journal entries.  

This being said, the novel definitely has enough good qualities in its first two parts for me to be intrigued by Nick McDonell, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author has in store for us in the future. He ought to have years enough ahead of him for cultivating his obvious gift for writing, and I think we have every reason to look out for this young writer.

/marie

October 23, 2006. Literature, Reviews. Leave a comment.

Best Friends

Just found this. It shows to the left Danish Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen and to the right director Lars von Trier.
Trier & Mikkelsen

Brian is the favourite nemesis of Danish cultural life. He prefers everything to be in neat boxes. So he has launched a project called “The Cultural Canon” which in its essence is a collection of top tens of different cultural areas. Like this we will always know what to read and what to watch and what to listen to and we wont have to think ourselves.
Even the minister’s name is a thorn in the side since only stupid people who have never heard about anything remotely connected with art are called Brian. That is a fact. All Danes know this.
And Lars von Trier? Well, he looks like he’s going to puke.
Lol!
/anna & marie

October 14, 2006. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

On Gender and Age

Since I am in bed (or on the couch as it is) with a bad cold I have been watching films all day. Only romantic ones of course since my brain is so filled with snot that there is nothing else for me to watch. Or whatever… a bad excuse is better than no excuse, eh? First I saw the BBC adaptation of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from 1996. I did because it features Toby Stephens for whom I have begun cherishing a grande passion (or however it goes according to Mr Rochester). The lead role is taken by Tara Fitzgerald who portrays the tormented Helen very well. It is fascinating to see her transform from young happy girl to tried wife of a malignant alcoholic and then into a happy and mature woman. Mr Markham (Toby Stephens) seems a little bit vague but then what Helen is looking for is stability and love not ardent fervour and I guess Mr Markham will be an excellent and happy match.
What struck me most was that while just now Toby Stephens has matured and made his way to one of literature’s great romantic heroes – Mr Rochester of Jane Eyre, Tara Fitzgerald has in the same series been transformed from young heroine to evil aunt Reed. First we have them together as a couple:
Tenant of Wildfell Hall

And then we have them as Rochester and Reed:
Mrs Reed

Rochester

Ten years have passed and Toby Stephens has grown hotter while Tara Fitzgerald obviously has been reduced to an asexual, sick and bitter female. And their ages? Mr Stephens is 37, Ms Fitzgerald is 39.

The day’s other film was Sense and Sensibility. Marie, forgive me, I know thou likest not Jane Austen – but what would you have me do? I cannot continue watching Jane Eyre for crying out loud. Well, the thing is – there it was again. Also this film was made about a decade ago. In it Emma Thompson plays Elinor Dashwood who is quite young despite threatening spinsterhood. Another character is Colonel Brandon portrayed by Alan Rickman. Colonel Brandon is described as a middle aged man of about 40-45 years. In the end he gets the very young Marianne Dashwood played by Kate Winslet. In real life there is about 30 years of age difference between the two.
Well, now to my comparison. Both Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman star in the Harry Potter movies. While Mr Rickman seems to have grown younger in the ten years that have passed (just judging from the amount of grey hair):
Brandon Rickman
Snape Rickman

Ms Thompson seems sadly aged:
Dashwood Thompson

Trelawney Thompson

I can tell you that Alan Rickman turned 60 this year while Emma Thompson turned 47. I think this proves a point (though I do not think Severus Snape is hot), which is that male actors are allowed a longer span of time to do normal roles while the actresses must see themselves faced with character parts almost before they turn 40. Emma Thompson did try, we must allow her that, since she was around 35 when she played Elinor Dashwood who probably should have been about ten years younger.
And now my general point: men are regarded as alive and kicking when it comes to love and relationships and…well life much longer than women. It may be that we laugh at the idea of Elinor Dashwood being a sad spinster at the age of 25 but there is still some truth to it even though we might add ten or fifteen years to that number today. But while a man of 35 is only just a real grown up man, a woman of 35 is past her youth. Or is this too much? I think there is some truth to it even though this may be a bit extreme. And I think it sad and wrong. Let’s change it.
And I don’t mean that the men should turn to character roles when they are close to 40. Remember I am still harbouring that passion for Mr Rochester – no – we must have more female role models. And not only – we should change our ideas about what women are and aren’t and can and cannot do at certain ages. This is one of the large underlying issues left to treat in terms of equality. One of those issues you don’t think about first when talking about equality and therefore one of those that are important to bring to the light. Not least since our life expectancy is continually prolonged and thus proportionally minimising the female period of sexual attractiveness and vital activity. It is neither fair nor right.
/anna

October 13, 2006. Films, Television. 7 comments.

Ode to Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash 

As Anna revealed recently, we have lately, after seeing the movie Walk the Line developed a love for the music of Johnny Cash, and while Anna elaborated on her girlcrush on the portrayer of June Carter’s part, Reese Witherspoon (a girlcrush that I totally share, mind you), we both feel that Johnny Cash has earned an ode, too. So I’ve decided to take it upon me to write a tribute to this long legged guitar pickin’ man. Let me start out by saying that like Anna, I was completely taken aback by the impact Mr. Cash’s music has had on me. As readers of this blog will know, I’m an avid opera lover,  and I cannot remember the last time I found myself surrendering so completely to a non-operatic composer, and of course I’ve been scratching my head with puzzlement, trying to figure out why it is that Mr. Johnny Cash has managed to win me over the way he has. 

His music is catchy, to be sure, but so is the music of lots of other artists. Mr. Cash was talented, yes, but so are a lot of other contemporary musicians, and I have been hauled by various well-meaning boyfriends through endless lines of CDs with highly estimated names such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, Captain Beefheart, Neil Young and whathaveyou, none of which ever managed to make any lasting impression on me.  

Get rhythm when you get the blues 

The only thing I’m able to chalk it down to is that overwhelming, life-assuring, triumphant openness to the joy of music that I find in his music. Performing throughout his career songs as completely different as the arch-American, folk-y country song “The Wreck of the Old 97” and the dark, urban, metrosexual “Own Personal Jesus”, Johnny Cash always seemed to be willing to go, open-mindedly, wherever the music led him, and this openness is the most important factor to me in all his works.

Because it’s always there, that bubbling curiosity that playful exploration. His songs are most often introduced with a few, very simple notes played by the bass in a steady, predictable pace and rhythm. But then, through his composition, through his guitar solos and the epically dynamic progression of his stanzas, he lets each of the songs develop their own personal style and expression. An example is the song “Walk the line”:  At first glance a pretty dull composition, almost like a finger exercise for a child; no bridge or any real chorus, just the same eight bars repeated five times in different keys.  Upon studying the song a little closer, however, one will find, that this is the point exactly: It is indeed an exercise! As the lyrics betray, the song is about a man’s love for a woman, and how this love makes him want to struggle to become a better man, and it is this struggle that we find in the simplistic song. Rather than going off into extremities, rather than throwing himself into daring and sophisticated bridges and choruses, the persona of the song keeps to his straight and narrow path, and practises his eight little bars with the obedience of a child at lessons, practising his finger exercises and scales.

I love that! And it’s everywhere in his songs, at least the way I see it. You can hear the train’s puff-puffing in “Folsom Prison Blues”, you can hear the shoeshine boy’s rhythmic movements in “Get rhythm”, and the manic tempo and high notes of “Cocaine Blues” urgently mimic the reckless state of mind of the cocaine addict. It’s music at its finest, I think: It takes over when words fail you and expresses so much more than words ever could. 

“…I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die”

That being said, however, I really love Johnny Cash’s lyrics, too. They hold a musicality that allows the lyrics to blend beautifully with the music, and with a ruthless, almost brutal honesty that becomes particularly moving in the songs in which Cash speaks on behalf of the desperado. The inmate’s painful recollection of his own cold-blooded murder of a man in Reno in “Folsom Prison Blues”, his own fate contrasted by the carefree, innocent travellers in the dining car of the passing train, the wife-murderer’s outcry to the Lord in “Cocaine Blues” and his breathless, minute recollection of his trial; all this becomes so incredibly moving through Cash’s scarce and coarse lyrics. And the fact that Cash did special concerts in prisons, wanting to raise a debate about the wretched conditions in American prisons only makes his lyrical tributes to the desperados more sympathetic.

Hotter than a pepper sprout

Which brings me to the last part of this little ode. Because apart from Cash’s artistic achievements, he just seemed like a really likeable person. He was quirky (those weird movements with his chin! The pacing back and forth on the stage! That deep voice!), and charismatic, he had a sense of humour (“A boy named Sue” – ‘Nuff said.), and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m totally crushing on the guy. Add to this the story of his own personal suffering: Addicted to narcotics and booze, arrested and going broke, then sobering up and getting his life back on track – he really was all those things he sung about. A desperado, and then an obedient child doing finger exercises.

And then of course, he was in love. And as Anna’s and my own dreamy facial expressions when we’re watching the proposal scene in Walk the Line will testify, it is just impossible not to be moved by such a strong-lived love as the one between Johnny Cash and June Carter. Anna sent me this link yesterday of a you-tubed interview with Johnny and June from 1980, and I cannot believe what an adorable couple they made.

   Johnny and June

*Sigh*. May they both rest in peace. Thank you for the music.

/marie

October 7, 2006. Fandom, Music, Odes. 11 comments.

New Old Member of the International Hammerhead Association

Even in the 18th Century there were hammerheads. Here is the proof:
Jens Juel

This is a self portrait by Danish artist Jens Juel (1745-1802): Self portrait by artificial light, c. 1764. A sight for sore eyes I would say – and especially for a hammerhead lover such as myself.
I happened to pass the painting when I was strolling around the rooms of the Danish National Gallery, Statens Museum for Kunst, last night. There was a grand opening since the museum has undergone a refurbishment over a couple of years, and now, finally, we are back in business. All rooms have been rearranged and the permanent collection is presented in quite new ways i.e. mixing old and new. Most of it works very well and I am just so content to have the museum back in one piece.
And the party was wonderful. Such good atmosphere – people were very happy and Marie and I had a lot of free champagne (I have been suffering from it today). There was music in many of the rooms and I met a lot of friends and some of my family came. Such fun.
And by the way…Jens Juel did turn much more handsome. Look at him ten years later:
Juel
Or maybe he just became a more experienced painter.
/anna

October 5, 2006. Art, Hammersharks. 1 comment.